Monday, May 22, 2006

Honoring a "Hands off" Hero

On Wednesday, May 17, 2006, I had the privilege of attending the Annual Prayer Breakfast held in the Atrium of the State Capitol Building in Columbus, Ohio. This annual event, hosted by Rev. Dan Whisner and Ohio Legislative Watch, brought together dozens of pastors and legislators from all four corners of Ohio for a special time of prayer, especially for our Ohio legislators.

We live in a great state in a great nation where we have the freedom to offer prayer in the State Capitol Building to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But freedom is never free. As our Founding Fathers proclaimed at the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

Each generation must fight battles--sometimes overseas, sometimes in courtrooms--to keep America free. As I was talking with Rev. Dan Whisner last week at the Ohio State Capitol, he reminded me that the year 2006 is the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest courtroom victories of our generation--State of Ohio v. Whisner, 351 NE2d 750 (Ohio 1976).


Rev. Dan Whisner, now approaching 50, remembers well the battles which his father, Pastor Levi Whisner of God's Tabernacle, fought with the local school board and prosecutor in Darke County over his church school. The state and local public school officials wanted to control every aspect of the private church school, even requiring a license to operate. But Levi Whisner had a different view of education. He wanted to provide for his own children and for other children in his church school a Bible-based, Christ centered education untainted by the humanistic philosophy of the state education system. As a matter of faith, he didn't want the state's money, and he didn't want the state's control.


When he was prosecuted for violating the state's education laws, Levi Whisner did not back down, and ultimately the Ohio Supreme Court backed him up, ruling that the state's education regulation were stifling freedom of religion and the parents' freedom to educate their children. The court, citing a 19th Century case, borrowed the phrase "hands off," ordering the state to keep its "hands off" of church schools.


Pastor Levi Whisner's heroics inspired his son Dan to start Ohio Legislative Watch, which has been helping to guard our state's liberties in Ohio's legislature for the last twenty years. As we honor Levi Whisner and the 30th anniversary of his great legal victory, we ask and pray: Who will be the "hands off" hero in the next generation?


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